I am deeply troubled by the decision to prorogue Parliament. For a Prime Minister who has faced the House of Commons for just one day to decide to suspend Parliament for more than a month shows a disappointing disregard for Parliament and our democratic traditions. During this prorogation the Prime Minister will be making hugely important decisions about the future of our country, and he will be doing so without any Parliamentary scrutiny.
The Prime Minister is suggesting that a prorogation for a Queen’s Speech is normal practice, which is true. I also can understand the argument that, as a new Government, a new Queen’s Speech is necessary to outline its programme. However, what concerns me is the length of prorogation, which could be as long as 35 days. The average length of prorogation since 2010 has been just 8 days, and it could be as short as a couple of days should the Prime Minister wish it.
The length of this prorogation is a political tactic to ensure that any attempts by MPs to legislate against no deal will be significantly more challenging. When Parliament is prorogued all bills currently progressing will fall, including any attempts to prevent a no deal Brexit that are still being debated.
We must be clear: this manoeuvre is in flagrant disregard of our traditions and conventions as a democratic nation. However, it is likely not illegal, nor unconstitutional. This is a political problem which needs a political solution and I do not believe that the answer can be found in a court of law.
This is a political provocation and MPs must respond in a measured, sensible manner to protect our democracy and ensure parliamentary scrutiny of the risks of no-deal. As such I will explore all measures necessary to avert no deal. I will support any measure I deem both necessary and likely to succeed.
The most straightforward of these will be legislation. I will support legislation to avert no deal, as I have done in the past. This method is the most likely to gain support and the most likely to work as it will be a matter of law, rather than convention or tradition, that will bind the Government.
I cannot yet predict what form the legislation will take but my preference is for legislation that will rule out no deal while also keeping the door open to leaving with a deal, therefore protecting Brexit from those who seek to overturn it.
The next option would be a vote of no confidence. I do not believe that this is a measure that will succeed and indeed it could backfire. There is a significant risk that it will lead to a General Election which will see us crash out with no deal. What is more, doing so during a General Election means the few means of mitigating the impact through legislation would be unavailable as Parliament would be dissolved. Worse still, it could lead to us crashing out and then facing the prospect of a Corbyn Government. I do not believe this is a responsible course.
Finally, there is the suggestion that I should resign the whip and quit the Conservative Party. I cannot see that this will change the realities of Brexit one iota and it will simply focus the debate on personality rather than the substance.
While it is important to prevent no deal, we must also look to how Britain will be governed after Brexit. The Conservative Party has for decades stood for liberty, the rule of law and moderate Government. It is incumbent on those of us who value these principles to work to protect them in our mainstream political parties. This prorogation is a challenge to those values. However, if we abandon our parties to those who do not share these values, events like this will become all the more common to the detriment of our country.
Please rest assured I will continue to do what is necessary to avert no deal, to try to deliver Brexit with a deal and to protect our society’s prosperity and values.